Every three minutes a Canadian is diagnosed with cancer, and for Hunter Miller that diagnosis came on his 12th birthday.
On what was supposed to be a day of celebration, the Oliver boy found out he had stage-four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His next eight months was a battle against the cancer that was attacking the cells of his lymphatic system. He travelled from his home in Oliver to Vancouver every month for treatment, only to have his grandfather die of lung cancer shortly after Hunter went into remission.
It was from this story that eight moms have banded together to take up the battle against cancer by picking up hockey sticks, a game they have never played in their lives, for the Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer challenge.
“Hunter wanted to play for my dad but when we went online to look it up, you have to be 16 and he just turned 13,” said his mom Denise Oberg-Miller. “I decided to just ask some friends, many of them have kids in Hunter’s class, if they wanted to play and they were all in for it. It all happened so fast.”
On Saturday, the Oliver women will take to the ball hockey courts at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver with over 100 teams to battle in Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer. The dawn-to-dusk fundraising event will not only feature games but live music, celebrity appearances, interactive activities, food and beverages.
The eight moms will be playing under the team name Gina’s Rock, which stands for Giving In is Not Acceptable.
While practices have been held once a week since July, the team has also been focused on reaching their $10,000 fundraising goal. Through barbecues, a charity game against the Oliver Fire Department and booths at the Festival of the Grape, they have raised $14,374 (as of Wednesday afternoon) for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“I think it is important to be involved in events like Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer to raise the funds. If this was 10 years ago, Hunter wouldn’t be here. It is like paying it forward and it is a fun event. We get to have a girls night out,” said Denise.
She isn’t the only mom on the team whose son is a cancer survivor. Aiden Kirs, who is in Grade 8 with Hunter, has been cancer-free for 12 years after beating hepatoblastoma in the first year of his life. The moms coming together to form Gina’s Rock has only solidified their friendship and network of support.
“This has been a great experience working with these ladies and it has shown that I am stronger than I thought I was,” said Denise.
“A majority of these ladies have all stood behind me during that tough year. I lost my mom in July and they were there. Hunter got sick and they were there. My dad got sick and passed away and they are there. I go and do this and they are there. They had my back the whole time and this community is so amazing, especially if you consider we have only 5,000 people in Oliver and we have raised over $14,000.”
Celebrities such as former Canucks players like Dave Babych, Richard Brodeur, Cliff Ronning and other Vancouver sports and media personalities will be drafted onto teams that have the highest fundraising totals as honorary coaches. Gina’s Rock made it on that list and Denise is hoping for one special Vancouver Canucks player.
“I would like Richard Brodeur. I grew up watching him,” she said.
Those who wish to support the Gina’s Rock can do so through the Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer website at www.teamuptoconquercancer.ca and clicking on the Donate button and typing in the team name.